March 16, 2014

Coffinworm - IV.I.VIII

Written by Justin C.

I've probably seen Coffinworm most often described as blackened doom. It's probably as good as any, although it's still pretty reductive. Hearing the blasting, grind-like energy that opens their new album, IV.I.VIII, might make you wonder if you're listening to the same album everybody else described. Blackened-doom-grind-death-sludge might be more apt, if somewhat unwieldy, but it captures the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink formula that Coffinworm makes work for them.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Opening track "Sympathectomy" (one of many dark, tongue-in-cheek song titles) settles down from its explosive beginning into doomier territory, but the band has a virtuosic way with tempo. It slows, speeds up, slows down again, pushing and pulling under guitar and bass riffs so thick and meaty that you'll want to bite into them. Vocals come in the forms of black metal shrieks and low, death growls, all distorted beyond reason. The drums range between unhinged blast beats and caveman bashing.

Almost every song is a mini-album in and of itself. The riffs start up, disappear for a while, and come back in mutated forms. Restating a theme and variations is a classic compositional technique, but Coffinworm pushes that idea to its outer limits. The songs on IV.I.VIII shouldn't work--there are too many tempos, too many changes, but somehow they hang together on even the thinnest of threads. It's difficult to put into words, but as disparate as the parts of each song are, they all make sense together.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Is it weird to say I'm charmed by an album that's so vicious and unrelenting? Because that's the best way I can think to describe it. On every listen I pick up something new: Is that an acoustic guitar adding extra texture in "Instant Death Syndrome"? And how about the brief guitar squeals in the same song that act as a command to DESTROY, setting off vicious drum blasts underneath creeping guitar lines? And that slap bass in "Lust vs. Vengeance"! Why does it work so well?

After hearing early samples of the album, I expected a sanity-challenging experience like I had with Indian's new album. In theory, Coffinworm's album should be no less difficult and demanding, but somehow they've made an album just as punishing, but strangely compelling at the same time.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

  1. Such a great release Max. Thanks for unearthing it.